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Hillary Clinton deserved to lose

The US election was a contest between obvious vulgarity and devious vulgarity.

Donald Trump did not win this election. Hillary Clinton lost it. Not enough of “her voters” turned out; not enough Democrats could find it in themselves to choose her. I can see why. I’d have voted for Clinton (given the alternative), but with unease. For others – the others who mattered – that unease turned into apathy. Whom do you know who is really “for” Clinton? Me neither.

Stay close to the feelings rather than their rationalisations. As the results came in, one emotion, gathering in strength and clarity, did surprise me. Besides the fear of Trump’s tone and unpredictability, I felt something else. The Clintons were gone. I didn’t like the wider circumstances, but I wasn’t sad about that part.

Financially dubious and politically cynical, pedlars of liberal values that they do not apply to themselves, the Clintons have done whatever it takes to obtain and retain power. It would be unfair to blame them for all of the causes of Trumpism (celebrity culture, social media, globalisation, the financial crisis, and so on) but the Clintons stand four-square behind one of the central drivers of their own demise. Self-interest prettied up with the rhetoric of social justice: people have had enough of it.

Clinton deserved to lose. Some argue that Trump’s campaign was “devoid of policy”. Yet he said three things loudly: less immi­gration, a new protectionism and more infrastructure spending. I think that he’s wrong about the first two and I can’t see how he will pay for the third.

And Clinton? There’s a case for having nothing memorable to say, as she did during the campaign, but preserving the status quo relies on personal propriety. “I’m not going to change much but I’m public-spirited and decent” has some merits as a political position. Yet that space cannot be occupied by a Clinton. Idealistic chatter about values accompanied by realism about money – Clintonism in one phrase – may have felt fresh in 1992. In 2016, the evidence has come in: you certainly are realists about money.

A widely held objection to Trump (one that I share) is his gleeful ungentleman­liness. Yet this was not an election that ­pitted vulgarity against decency. It was a contest between obvious vulgarity and devious vulgarity. Clinton was Trump’s dream opponent. In April, I was among the many commentators chastising the Republicans for coughing up Trump. Perhaps more stupid was the Democrats putting up Clinton.

If it sounds unfair to lump both Clintons together, think again. They are an alliance. Her victory would have left Bill – jobless but entangled in everything – ghosting around the state rooms where he once received sexual favours from an intern.

Hillary Clinton’s defenders said that she had visited a record number of countries as secretary of state. Was that the best case they could come up with? In contrast, the electorate felt two things deeply about Clinton. First, she was the ultimate insider, having wriggled through every political scenario. Second, she was rich thanks to her relentless leeching of Wall Street cash. Whose money was this, post-financial crisis?

The scale of the corporate largesse that the Clintons have pocketed is significant. Many successful lives lead to some interaction with big finance. But the Clintons didn’t just take some money along the way. Theirs has been self-enrichment on a vast scale. Trump uses high buildings to fleece people, while the Clintons used high office.

Morality is not only about legality (there are questions there, too). It is also about proportion. The Clintons do not seem to understand proportion. Luxuriating in their corporate excess, they dished out smug ­political clichés. That Hillary Clinton titled her platitudinous book It Takes a Village is more revealing than the focus group that doubtless devised it can ever have imagined. What could be more inauthentic than the idea of Clinton as a village lover? Which village, exactly? The village of Wall Street? The village of Washington lobbyists on K Street? There are no real people in Clinton’s village. It’s a nodal cluster of liberal abstract nouns.

It is ironic, many have pointed out, that Trump – a child of privilege – should have led an “anti-establishment” movement. Many preferred the vulgarian in his gaudy skyscraper to the posers on a private plane fantasising about snuggling up around the campfire in “the village”. Clinton’s agenda, the vacuous piety, the weary ideals stapled together like Ikea furniture, felt exhausted and flat. Seen it all and cashed in big: those truths, by contrast, definitely came across.

Then there is tone. I hated Trump’s tone during the campaign. Many recoil in horror at the way Trump trashes people. Yet the Clintons are also expert at trashing people: they do it through expensive lawyers. (Consider the handling of the women, in particular, who brought accusations against Bill.)

Above all, the establishment needs to reconsider the changing nature of personality in politics. At the dawn of mass media, the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase: “The medium is the message.” It needs updating. Social media and digital narcissism have pushed the process a step further. People have become media. So the person is the medium is the message. What was the Democratic message? The Clintons. That lost the election.

Instead of the “end of democracy”, this election can be interpreted as the logical conclusion of Clinton-style tactics, given a guerilla makeover. Trump is accused of saying any old nonsense to get elected, without any intention of following through in office. Sound familiar? In an appropriate twist, some in the Clinton camp are now blaming the electoral data analysts, among others. The problem is closer to home. Trump is a phoney. But the Democrats put up a practised phoney to beat a reckless one. That’s not going to work any more. 

Ed Smith is a journalist and author, most recently of Luck. He is a former professional cricketer and played for both Middlesex and England.

This article first appeared in the 17 November 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Trump world

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear